Darling Thief Fit to Stand Trial in California

In the wee hours of March 4, three people eased the $2.8-million Oyster 82 Darling out of her slip at Sausalito Yacht Harbor and sailed her as far as Pacifica before grounding her on Linda Mar Beach. John Furth, the owner of the boat, turned on the morning news only to see his beauty being bashed by the surf. He immediately called the police.

The ‘captain’ and two crew were rescued and taken into custody for stealing the stricken boat. Two days later, the two crewmembers were released after investigators concluded they were allegedly duped into believing the captain, 63-year-old Leslie Alan Gardner, had inherited Darling. It’s been over three months and Gardner is still sticking to his story, and attorneys on both sides of the case against him agree that he truly believes it.

The Chronicle ran a fascinating piece by Vivian Ho about Gardner and his apparent delusions. Ho interviewed the accused boat thief twice in the medical ward of the Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, and noted how different he behaved during each session. In the first, she described him as lucid, but in the second she said he was “rambling.”

Ho reports that two doctors have cleared Gardner as competent to stand trial, but that neither side believes he’s all there mentally. His family and attorney claim that post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the Vietnam War led to decades of substance and alcohol abuse. In 2006, he lost a leg to a drunken motorcycle accident, after which he admits to Ho that he became hooked on painkillers. But it wasn’t until he accidentally killed his oldest son two years ago — the brakes in his van failed and the son was run over — that his family says he broke with reality.

Regardless of what Gardner believes, the justice system — and the boat’s true owner — believe differently. He is set to appear at a preliminary hearing on June 27 to determine if he will stand trial for multiple felonies, including grand theft, possession of a stolen boat and vandalism.

Courtesy of latitude38.com

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